Crescent sells 14,000 acres of SC timber land

Charlotte-based Crescent Communities said Wednesday that it has sold almost 14,000 acres of land along Interstate 77 in South Carolina to an affiliate of Atlanta-based Timberland Investment Resources.

The land is spread through Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw and Lancaster counties. Crescent, a major developer and landowner, said the sale is one of the largest single transactions in its history. The sale price was not disclosed.

Timberland buys and manages working forests for large institutional investors, overseeing hundreds of thousands of acres.

Hank Higgins, Crescent’s vice president of land sales, said the company determined it made more sense to sell the acreage to a timber company than try to develop the land. The tracts have been used for timber, and the area has sawmills, paper mills and plywood-producing factories that make such operations efficient, he said.

“The Great Falls area has always been a real good timber-operating area,” said Higgins. “We didn’t feel like there was a lot of residential or commercial development potential there.”

Higgins said the company has held the land for decades. Much of it was fallow farmland when Duke acquired it, around the time the company was building dams to create lakes for its power plants.

“When the economy was really good a few years ago, we started subdividing some of the properties into smaller tracts to make them more affordable,” Higgins said. The plan was to sell much of the land to individual holders. But with the recession, interest fell, and Crescent decided to reverse course and sell the land as a large tract.

Crescent, originally created as an offshoot of Duke Energy to manage the company’s land holdings, has 54 tracts for sale in the Carolinas, mostly west and north of Charlotte and up through Hickory and Morganton. The company said interest is rebounding.

“Today we’re seeing more buyers turn to the land market both for personal (and) recreational use and, in this case, for investment purposes,” said Whit Duncan, Crescent’s president of land sales.

Wednesday’s sale was Crescent’s second major transaction announced in as many days. On Tuesday, the company said it closed on the sale of two apartment complexes in Raleigh and Durham, part of a $700 million sale of nine complexes to investors.